Before I begin I will just say this once. The first three productions I will be semi-review are put on the by the University of Minnesota Guthrie Theatre Actor Training Program Class of 2013 (WHY IS THIS PROGRAM TITLE SO LONG!?!) If you are interested in learning more about their program specifically journey here.
Stags and Hens
by: Willy Russel.
So my Theater weekend started on Thursday last week where I wandered into the lovely world of 1970's Liverpool, England. The premise of the play follows a bachelor party (Stag party) and a bachelorette party (Hen party). Hijinks's ensue when both groups show up to the same night club! Also of note the entire play takes place in the men's/ and women's restroom.
I will begin with things I liked about the play:
- The accents were excellent (The actors did just get back from studying in London for a semester so I hope the accents were solid)
- All of the characters felt like full fledged three dimensional characters. While all the characters were heightened for comedic purpose they still all felt like real people
- I enjoyed how the main character of this play spent 100% play passed out on stage
- The actor who played Eddy (the violent Best-Man) was fantastic. I related a lot to his character and couldn't help but see Hemingway's portrait of the perfect male.
- I loved music selection used in the show. It was fun and really set the atmosphere for the play.
- This script was very weird. Huge sections of this play seemed like it was intended to be taken and straight up farce. Then the play would randomly shift and have very dramatic turns. It was hard to tell if the play was supposed to be a straight farce or more of a tragicomedy. The it ends with everything being tied up in a nice little bow (like a traditional comedy).
- Most of these characters were extremely unlikeable. They were ugly ugly people. This sometimes works like in Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but it didn't work for me in this show. Its hard to stay invested in a play when I do not like any of characters
- The overall message and theme of the play was lost on me. It seemed to be going in the direction of "avoid social pressures, fuck getting married, do what you want to with your life."... but then it ended in the characters choosing to side with social pressures. I just feel like I spent this whole play waiting for it to "get there" with its message and then it ended.
- Finally the play was way too long. Maybe it was pacing of the actors maybe it was the pacing of the writing but somewhere in between I checked my watch quite a bit.
by: John Godber and Jane Thornton
The best way I can describe this play is basically the movie Waiting with all females. I do feel like that analogy is selling it a little short because this play was a lot deeper than that kinda bad movie (which I adore). Basically it is an observational comedy where the waitresses get a chance to share their real thoughts on the customers they serve.
Things I liked about the play:
- As mentioned before accents were top notch
- All the actresses play 3-5 minor roles usually shifting physicality and vocal range. It was quite entertaining to watch them transform very rapidly in and out of their customers. It also provided a very meta question of whether they actually became these characters or was it just the waitresses playing the caricatures of these people. Both interesting critiques on the people who frequent the cocktail bar.
- The music was quite fun. The show opening with femebots and the ladies strutting onstage, which was quite fantastic.
- These characters felt like real people with real hopes and dreams not just the stereotypical waitresses.
- I worked in a restaurant this past summer so I know how much truth there was in the writing of this show and the performance by the actor. The simple way one of the actress took off her apron and wrapped it up and the end of her shift rang true to me. This attention to detail was quite nice.
Things I didn't like:
- The "Woo girl" 21st birthday party in the bar while fun and funny at first really started to get on my nerves. They were so loud and obnoxious.
- This script while comedic in nature did seek a deeper truth. Like I said before the whole play was very honest. Unfortunately, they got there in the most formulaic way possible. It was sketch, sketch, dramatic spotlighted monologue. Sketch, sketch, sketch, dramatic spotlighted monologue. The actors had to work with the script they were given, but to me it seemed like really lazy writing.
- There was an underlying theme of the Cocktail Bar dying and decaying that was really interesting. I feel like the theme was not explored or concluded upon at all. I would have like to see more on that.
- Minor costumes to represent the various characters would have helped a lot as the actresses jumped around in roles. I remember seeing The 39 steps and how many lovely gags there were of hat scarves and coat switching to represent all of the characters.
- There was a pretty defined set with different tables. There seemed to be an attempt to keep continuity with where certain characters get placed at tables. When the actresses visited these spaces later they became those characters again. That continuity was not as specific or consistent as it could have been and it got confusing from the audience perspective.
by: John Godber
This was by far my favorite play of the BFA comedy series. The premise of this play is a story we know all too well. Its the every-inspirational-sports-movie ever story. An underdog beaten down team meets a new coach, a new special coach that turns them around. They then challenge a team that is better than them in every possible way and they win (maybe). I hate this story it is boring overused and not- reality. But I loved Up 'n' Under. Why? read on... Also Rugby!
What I liked:
- The play was structured with a chorus that spoke in verse adding to the absurdity. The play also frequently pulls Shakespeare quotes for dramatic over-the-top "rallying" the troops speeches.
- This team is the most hopeless team in the history of the style. They take it to the absolute extreme to mock the genre.
- They don't win at the end. The team reflects and the play ends on a much more uplifting real message of let's keep trying. (More of Rocky less like that Remember the Titans bullshit).
- This is an intensely physical subject and the way they stage the game is brilliant and it is so fun to watch these actors go through their training montages.
- The best part of this production is it doesn't take itself seriously. You can see the actors are having a lot of fun which causes the audience to have a lot of fun
I really don't have a lot of constructive critique of this play. I really just loved every second of it. I will say that the characters in this play felt flatter and more two dimensional than the first two plays. However, I would argue that was a stylistic choice and not a slight on the performers or the direction. This play was the stage version of Leatherheads I never knew I wanted.
And with that my friends I bid y'all adieu. I hope this was entertaining and hope to be back at it tomorrow,
Ps: I am writing a full review of Spring Awakening for a theater class so you will be getting that sometime this week as a post. GO SEE THE SHOW ITS REALLY GOOD!